Hermeneutics is the art of interpretation, and it is used in everything we do from trying to decide what a road sign means to reading a comic strip. A street my family used to live on had a sign which said, “Caution slow children playing.” Without punctuation I had to decide if it was warning me about slow children or if I was being advised to slow down because children were playing. Hermeneutics.
Some of the passages about marriage and relationships require similar art when trying to apply their ancient instruction to 21st century contexts. Peter, for example, told women to not braid their hair and praised Sarah for calling Abraham “Lord.”
This week’s sermon is the second in a series on relationships and is an attempt to find the universal ideas about marriage that are applicable at all times and in all cultures. Did Peter really mean that women couldn’t braid their hair or was he warning against looking like a side of culture that is godless and immoral? That is the question of hermeneutics.’
Marriage is one of my least favorite topics to speak about. Why? Because of the amount of pain and brokenness that exists in regard to that subject. In any group of people listening to a sermon on marriage will be those who grew up in broken, fractured families. Who have suffered their own marital versions of heartache, abuse, and rejection. There will be a relative minority of folks who have long marriages in the audience.
The challenge of speaking on such a subject is to present the ideas in a way that is constructive and healing, not accusatory and hurtful. The cultural distance between the times of the Bible and today is huge and trying to speak from those texts without recognizing the distance only results in confusion and pain.
One of the premier texts about relationships between husbands and wives begins in Ephesians 5:21, “be submissive to one another out of reverence for Christ…” When I did a search on that text in a software study program I use, it conveniently started at verse 22, “wives be subject to your husbands…”
I doubt that calling one’s husband “lord,” as Peter said or “wives being submissive to husbands” is the solution to marital brokenness. But the idea of mutual respect (husband to wife and vice versa) is a curative that will work. That’s what I want to convey.